Now, let me give you a little history about our first born, who is now two and a half years old. When Leilah first came into this world, we were obviously smitten. She was the first grandchild on both sides of our families. She was bound to get spoiled.
I was in the hospital for 4 days with her, and maybe only slept like 6 hours that entire time. So, by the time we got home, I was a sobbing, exhausted, hallucinating mess. I started doing some research about how to get the most rest while breastfeeding a newborn. So, the internet brought forth the side lying nursing position, while laying in bed. This was like the most genius thing to me! I began nursing Leilah to sleep in our bed, and carefully transferring her into the Rock n Play next to our bed. This worked for a while. She would sleep for 4 hours, wake up, nurse back to sleep, and repeat. But, eventually she caught on. She would wake up the second I put her back in the Rock n Play and scream bloody murder until I nursed her back to sleep. Sound familiar?
By the time Leilah was 5 months old she could not sleep unless she was laying in bed next to me, with her food source directly available. Which she apparently needed every 2 hours during the night. Now, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to co-sleep, or to nurse your baby on demand during the night, or to even nurse them to sleep. However, this is not what I wanted for our family. I wanted her to be a good, independent sleeper, who could put herself to sleep without a crutch; breastfeeding, pacifier, rocking, etc. However, that is all she knew when it came to bedtime.
So, like any other new mom out there, I took to the internet again. I searched high and low for methods to get Leilah to sleep in her own room, and without needing me to nurse her to sleep. I tried just letting her cry it out. I didn’t even last 10 minutes and scratched that off my list. I attempted the whole putting her down while she’s awake but drowsy. Yeah, that just ended up with her screaming again. So, after all of my research and different attempts, here is what finally worked and ended up getting her to sleep for 5 hours straight in her own crib THE VERY FIRST NIGHT. And completely sleep trained within two weeks. I mean, sleeping through the night!
PSA: This shouldn’t be attempted until baby is at least 5-6 months old. That is when most pediatricians will tell you that they are able to go the whole night without a feeding.
Start a bedtime routine
I’m sure you know by now that babies thrive on routines. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, but something that will send a signal to baby’s brain that they need to start winding down for bedtime. For Leilah we did bath, lotion massage, a bedtime book, and her last feeding for the day. We kept the lights dim, and spoke very quietly during all of this too. We didn’t want to create too much stimulation right before bedtime.
Invest in a white noise machine
I’m not even kidding when I say this is like the most valuable thing in our house. My daughter still uses it to this day, and honestly we even use one in our room too. It helps to drown out noises around the house and provides a much more relaxing environment for sleep. The last thing you want is for baby to wake up after all that hard work getting them to sleep, when you accidentally clank a dish in the kitchen. Here are the ones we have and are loving:
Do not let baby fall asleep during feeding
This part is very critical. When babies are really small it only takes a little 15 minute snooze to recharge their batteries for another couple hours of partying, even if they’re guzzling a bottle or nursing. So, play with their hands, sing a song, stroke their face. Anything to keep them awake, but peacefully. Also, try to limit the last nap of the day. Ideally, you will want a baby to be awake for about 2 hours before going down for the night.
Introduce a lovey or small stuffed animal
By this point, baby should no longer need swaddling as the Moro Reflex should have diminished. So they can move freely in their crib and find their special toy. Introduce it during the feeding. Let them hold it while they get drowsy and place it with them in the crib. This will give them something else to feel comforted by when they wake up at 3am, while you get your beauty sleep. Make sure it isn’t something that can make any kind of noise. No crinkles, bells, rattles, or squeakers. Also, save this item for bedtime only. We want to make sure it’s special and only available at night time.
The tricky part of getting them to fall asleep
Now this is the hardest part of the whole process and where you must stay diligent and not give in. I know…this will probably be very controversial and may make some people say “how dare you!” or “you’re such a cruel mom!” blah blah blah. But, this is just what worked for us, and how we managed to get our cranky baby to sleep peacefully, which made her such a happier girl all around. I won’t say it was easy, because emotions were very high during all of this. No one wants their baby to cry at all, but I would do it all over again because of how well it helped her sleep in the end. So…here it is.
First Night: Place baby in the crib awake, but sleepy. Sit in a chair next to the crib until they fall asleep. Do not pick baby up and rock them again after you’ve placed them down. Unless of course they poop, throw up, or something like that. Yes, this could take an hour of baby crying. Calmly, and quietly reassure them that you’re there and that they need to fall asleep. Sometimes it helps to take turns with your partner if the crying becomes too much to handle. Shahbaz and I would take 20 minute sessions until Leilah fell asleep. The first night it took her about 40 minutes.
If they wake up in the middle of the night, give them 5-10 minutes of fussing before you go in to check. A lot of times baby will fall back asleep on their own after a few minutes. If they pooped and need changing/feeding repeat the process again of sitting next to the crib until they fall asleep.
Night Three: Continue all the steps, except move your chair to the middle of the room.
Night Five: Continue all the same steps and move your chair to sit next to the door.
Night Seven: Continue all the steps and leave the room once you have placed baby in the crib and said your goodnights. Now they have learned that they can fall asleep on their own. By this night, my daughter only cried for 10 minutes before she fell asleep. I was one proud Mama!
Be Consistent! It will pay off.
There is nothing more confusing to a baby than not knowing what is expected of them. If you constantly change up the way that they go to bed, they will be unsure of what they are supposed to do. Being consistent will help baby learn that they are able to fall asleep on their own, sleep longer stretches, and overall be a happier baby.
The first week after sleep training Leilah she was such a happy girl. Her mood during the day was totally more alert, and smiley. I am so glad we stuck it out and didn’t vary in our routine. I felt like a new woman, my husband felt like his wife was back to normal, and overall, our house was a much happier place to be. No one likes a cranky pants. 😉 So happy sleep training!